Why are Pittsburgh’s defensive schemes so effective?
“First of all, they have great athletes. They have the type of players that can execute what they ask them to do. The second thing is that their defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is willing to do a lot of different things and they execute (those things) quite well. They have great speed on defense. They tackle well and they are physical. On offense they are a Bill Cowher type of football team in the fact that they want to pound you running the ball, they want to be physical in the line of scrimmage and their young quarterback has really added the dimension to make them a little more balanced and elevated their play to allow them to be here. They are a well-coached, fine football team.”
What about the effectiveness of the blitz?
“There are only so many schemes you can run and teams can prepare for schemes up to a certain extent. You have to have the right type of people to run the schemes. In Pittsburgh’s case, when they blitz a linebacker, that linebacker is really good at blitzing. We’ve all seen teams that blitz and the blitzer runs right into the blocker and it’s an awesome collision, but he never gets home. Pittsburgh has the type of players that are physical, so you’ve got to take a particular stance against them to block them, but they also have enough wiggle and speed to make it very, very difficult. I think they have the right athletes to go with the scheme they run.”
What is Ray Rhodes’ status for the game?
“Ray came with us on this trip. He has been with the team after he had his stroke. He wasn’t on the practice field for a long time and he has started going on the practice field again, but he is kind of removed. He takes notes and he will review those things with John Marshall after practice. He came to both of our playoff games and was in the press box and he hadn’t been there before. The doctors are saying now he can do these things as long as he keeps calm. That’s hard for him to do unless he kind of keeps himself at a little bit of a distance. He is very much involved and has been in the planning of our defenses. He will be in the press box Sunday. Ray is a good friend of mine and we have been through a lot together and the most important thing now is that he is healthy. He knows that and I know that, so we are trying to make it where he can help us, but at the same time, not to become too excited.”
Did Ray’s stroke make you reflect on the stress of the profession?
“All of us in this business get pretty churned up sometimes. Any time a colleague or a good friend has something like this happen to him, you have to think about it. You really have a chance to put things in perspective if you think you are going over the edge just a little bit in how you go about this thing. It can be hard on you physically. There was Mike Martz in St. Louis and Ray and I lost Fritz Shurmur when we came to Seattle and every time something like that happens you think about it and you think, ‘Are things worth it and do you want to do it the rest of your life?’ The good news is that Ray is feeling better and that he can be here and share in this great experience with us.”
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GIL HASKELL
What are your thoughts on the Pittsburgh defense?
“They have very good players and they have speed with those good players. They start with the three big men inside. They are really big and strong and it takes two men to move them out. They have four athletically physical linebackers that are strong men. Both No. 55 and No. 53 can rush the passer and they go to either side and mix it up whenever they want to do it.
The two inside guys are smart and are in the spots they are supposed to be. And then No. 43 can move any place he wants to and he makes plays and he’s a hell of a pass rusher because he has speed enough to make the plays. He came from perhaps the finest university in America (laughter), you know I was there for five years. But really, their personnel is excellent and Bill (Cowher) is a defensive coach and when they go into the draft he knows what they’re looking for at each position, much like we do when we draft offensive players. We know exactly what we want in an offensive lineman, we know what we want in a fullback, automatically.
We know if we get a guy, in two days, if he can play it, or if he can’t. If he can’t, we just say, ‘We got the wrong guy. He can’t play it.’ So, they are built defensively first, we are built offensively first. So that’s a hell of a battle right there. They move around, they don’t just sit there and play it.
Like when we play Dallas, they are a wonderful defense, a wonderful defense, but when they line up, you know where they are. They have the four linemen right there, the three linebackers are where they are supposed to be and (Dallas CB Terrance) Newman’s going to be on No. 82 for us, (Darrell) Jackson. But the Steelers, you don’t know where they are going to be. They are there when the ball starts, but then the ball is snapped they move someplace else.
They are very well coached by Dick LeBeau. Lane, Larry, Lowe and LeBeau. (Dick “Night Train” Lane, [Yale] Larry, Gary Lowe and LeBeau.) That was the defensive backfield when we played them, I was a little young when we played them, see, but Detroit used to come in and play us when we were at Kezar (Stadium), but they were good.”
Talk about the continuity of your offensive line.
“That’s our team. That’s major. That’s a major part of our football team. We didn’t have an offensive line like that when we were in Green Bay. We built it first but we didn’t do it on purpose. We had a couple of drafts where we had two picks in the first round and we took Shaun Alexander with one and we took an offensive tackle from Wisconsin (T Chris McIntosh in 2000), a good player that hurt his neck but lost his career that way, but then we got Hutch (Steve Hutchinson) from Michigan as a second pick in the first round, I think he was the 17th player overall, but we really lucked out getting those offensive guys. Then we got a guy named Sean Locklear now at right tackle who is very underrated and really a good player, so we think we are pretty good that way.”
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH BILL LAVERONI
Talk about Walter Jones, your great left tackle.
“He’s a 6-5, 315-pound ballerina that plays offensive tackle. He’s a tremendous athlete. Not only that, he’s a great person. A very quiet, humble guy. He’s not a loud-mouth. He just does his job. He’s a true professional. He prepares and he studies his opponents. I wish young people, young football players in Pop Warner and high school, could see this guy prepare. Walter has tremendous skills but it doesn’t stop there, with his preparation and taking care of his body. He’s got a beautiful family. Thos are all results of his hard work.”
What about the challenge of the Steelers’ defense?
“Our guys know the importance of the game. They understand that you’re not in the Super Bowl unless you are a great team on offense and defense, just as the Steelers are. They know the challenge. Last week it was the Carolina Panthers and this week it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re a great, great defensive team and we feel pretty good about how we play.”
RUNNING BACK SHAUN ALEXANDER
What have you learned about the Steelers’ defense?
“They’re very fast, they play very aggressive, they like to pack in the offense, they kind of force you to be one-dimensional. It’s one of those things where we have a great challenge in front us, but that’s the greatest thing I’ve really enjoyed about the season this year is that we’ve been a team that accepts challenges game after game. Some guys get hurt and other guys step up and people having to adjust their Xs and Os in the middle of the game to do something that’s important to the team. It’s exciting to see our team in this situation and hopefully it goes well for us Sunday.”
What are your thoughts on Joey Porter?
“I love how he plays. His contract is up and we would love him in Seattle. He plays aggressive and you can tell he has fun while he’s playing the game. You can tell that he motivates the guys to step their game up. He’s one of those guys you love to watch on film because he gets it done. It’s just one of those things where we have our work cut out for us.
QUARTERBACK MATT HASSELBECK
Are you okay after yesterday’s van accident?
“I’m fine. It was like getting hit by a really small cornerback.”
Has the Super Bowl changed since your father Don played in the game
“The attention that this game gets now is greater than it was back in ’84 when he played in it (after the ’83 season with the Raiders). Even Coach Holmgren, when he talks about the Super Bowls that he coached in with the 49ers and the Green Bay Packers, he says to us, ‘Hey, a lot has changed.’ Cadillac is supplying cars for all the players and coaches to drive around in. That made Coach Holmgren very nervous. We let him know that they have OnStar and air bags and that these are safe cars. That put his fears at ease a little bit.”
What do you remember about your dad’s Super Bowl year?
“That year with the Raiders was incredible. It was kind of a traumatic experience. My dad had played about six years with the New England Patriots. We lived out in the suburbs of New England. He got traded during the season to Los Angeles, and that was a culture shock for us. We enjoyed it. I remember on Christmas day, we put our wetsuits on and went boogie-boarding. It was fun. Obviously, the Raiders had a great year that year and won the Super Bowl. That was incredibly exciting. I’ll never forget it. It was a lot of fun.”
RECEIVER BOBBY ENGRAM
What is the key to moving the ball on Pittsburgh’s defense?
“I just think we need to match their intensity. They’re going to give us a lot of different looks. We just need to be on top of our game in terms of how they want to blitz us and how they want to attack us and just stay within our game plan.”
Previous opponents have tried to disrupt your timimg by jamming Seattle's receivers at the line. How do you deal with that?
“I’m sure every team has press coverages in their package every week. I don’t know what their (Pittsburgh) game plan is but we’ve seen them press on film. We just have to play our game. We have to just release and have to run like we’ve always done. You’ve got to be able to deal with one-on-one coverage in this league or else you’re not going to be around that long. You’ve got to give them (Pittsburgh) credit. Their defense has played tremendous all year. They’re fast and an aggressive attacking style defense and we just need to match that intensity.”
How do you counter Pittsburgh’s aggressive approach on defense?
“If they’re going to come after us, we’re definitely going to have to hurt them with some (big) plays.”
RECEIVER JOE JUREVICIUS
Could you talk about your second Super Bowl as a member of Tampa Bay? How does it relate to your then-newborn son, who was suffering from life-threatening sialidosis? (Editor’s Note: Jurevicius’ infant son Michael passed away on March 24, 2003, having suffered from a degenerative nerve disease.)
“I remember everything. Obviously there’s a lot of sad moments, but there’s also a lot of good that came out from that week. It was a lot of turmoil for my family, but I think the biggest thing to remember is that throughout that whole story I was able to contribute to a team…It will live on with me. It’s got its own special meaning for me.”
Do you dread answering questions about your departed son?
“I think the longer you play this game and the more you’re around media, that you realize that was a big story then. I’d prefer for it not to be in the media, but it is what it is. In the same breath, I feel the media has helped get a lot of recognition for the March of Dimes. There’s a lot of positive to come out of it.”
Do you plan to do anything at the game to commemorate your son?
“I do it all the time. (He’s) buried in Cleveland, Ohio, right down the street from his grandpa and grandma. As soon as I leave here and go back to Cleveland, Ohio, I go there every morning and I go there every night. I do a lot things. I write an ‘M’ in the end zone before every game, right before kickoff and tell him, ‘I need you.’ I kind of look at him as my X-factor.”
FULLBACK MACK STRONG
Could you talk about your relationship with Shaun Alexander?
“First of all, Shaun and I are very good friends. Anytime you work closely together the way we do, it’s important that you like each other. Our families, wives and kids all hang out together. We get along from that standpoint and from there it spills out onto the football field. We are both very passionate about what we do. We are very determined about winning and being successful. The fact that we are both religious individuals just adds to what we do. We go out every week and let our light shine.”
How have you maintained your health over your long career?
“There have been years where I’ve had surgeries and played entire seasons in pain. Since then I’ve really tried to take care of myself through diet, training and I always improve from the previous year.”
Could you talk about Pittsburgh LB Joey Porter and S Troy Polamalu?
“(Porter) possesses a rare combination of size, speed and toughness. He can do it all. From his position, he can take over a game. We’ve seen that in the last few playoff games, when he overwhelmed the Colts and the Broncos. We know that and it’s not something that’s off our radar. We will have our hands full. We are playing against a talented group and have to play extremely well in order to win.”
“(Polamalu is) active and has a nose for the football. He seems to always be in the right place at the right time. You can tell by the plays that he makes that he studies a lot of film. He’s very smart and knows tendencies. He’s going to be a formidable opponent.”
What has owner Paul Allen done for the team?
“He’s saved this organization. I had the distinction of being on the team in 1996, when we basically packed our bags and moved down to Anaheim, California. The thought was that we would move there permanently. Mr. Allen stepped in and saved the team. He took us in a different direction and I’m very grateful for that.”
LT WALTER JONES
How has the Super Bowl experience been for you so far?
“It’s different. It’s a different stage. It’s something you work for all your career. You sweat in the hot sun to get to this stage in your career. I think everybody is looking forward to it. Everybody is just taking it in. Everybody will have a story. You listen to people tell you about it but now you can go back and say, ‘That’s how it is.’”
What needs to be done through the rest of the week in order for you to win?
“Just go out and prepare well. It will be a normal week so go out there and do the things that got you here. Go out there and practice well and prepare well and get ready for the game.”
C ROBBIE TOBECK
How does it feel to be thought of as the leader of your offensive line?
“Anytime you are respected by your peers, your teammates and stuff like that, it is a good feeling and it validates what you do. We have a great group up front and we all have our different roles, but we all fit in well with each other, we understand that each of us has a role and I think that has been the key to our success.”
What can you tell us about T Walter Jones and G Steve Hutchinson?
“He [Walter Jones] is absolutely the best lineman I have ever seen and he is the best one I have ever played with, without a doubt. He has the potential to be a future Hall of Fame lineman and that is rarified air when you are talking about offensive lineman like that, but he is also one of the most humble guys that you will come across and one of the most enjoyable guys to hang around. He is one of us.
Steve [Hutchinson] is not far behind. Steve came in as a hungry rookie and even as a first-round pick he came in as hungry to succeed as I did when I came in as a rookie free agent, who was just trying to make the team. Steve has stayed that way and he has always stayed respectful to Chris Gray and me, who are some of the elder players on the team. It has been just fun to play with these guys and getting to know them as friends.”
Is it easy to enjoy the moment?
“Well, you know the enjoyment will come if we win this game. What I am really happy about is that our team seems to be really focused and ready to prepare. I have been to the Super Bowl before and lost it and that literally took me two or three months to get over that. In my professional career, that was one of the worst moments. It was probably worse then going through a 3-13 season. If we come out on top, that is when we can sit back and enjoy the moment, but right now we have work to do.”